Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Sivan 5764 - May 27, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
A Protest of Outrage and Frustration

On Wednesday 28 Sivan the chareidi MKs, all together, staged a very loud and disruptive protest in the Knesset plenum. It was not behavior that is natural to many of them, but it was the expression of a year of frustration as the basic human issues that affect the religious public are not even addressed by the government, despite months and months of repeated letters, requests and even meetings discussing the issues. All the normal avenues that are available to public figures had been pursued. The response was not overt rejection or denial -- which is not really even possible in some of the cases since the obligations are clear -- but just vague promises or even less.

The issue that the protest focused on was the fact that a group of government employees, the staff of the religions councils, has not been paid for more than seven months. These are people who are on the government payroll, but the government at all levels has refused to accept responsibility for them. They used to be considered employees of the Religions Ministry, but since that was dissolved they have not been fired but have not been paid either.

The relationship that the religious community has had with the Israeli government has never been normal, and it has gotten much worse under the current Shinui dominated Likud government. A clear example is the NIS 32 million for the yeshiva budgets that was finally restored last week.

According to analyst Yaakov Rivlin, the origin of that money was in a cut that the Finance Ministry made last year in the budget for yeshivas in anticipation of fraud that they never found.

Last year, in a recurring effort to uncover "widespread fraud" that they are sure exists in the yeshiva requests from the government, the Finance Ministry set up a new system involving four different accounting firms (and costing millions of shekels) to monitor the yeshivas student rolls and to ensure that all the students reported are legitimate. In anticipation of the results, and before any actual false reporting had been found, the Finance Ministry lowered the yeshiva budgets by an amount that assumed that they would find ten thousand fictitious yeshiva students!

Of course such behavior violates all norms of reasonable behavior and administrative due process, but since the chareidim are outside the government such considerations mean nothing.

After the audit was carried out, they found less than a thousand problematic names, and most of these were found to be nothing more than technical errors.

If you thought that the government would just restore the money that the bureaucrats cut earlier without any authorization, you do not understand how the government deals with chareidim.

The government did agree to put back the money in last year's budget, but only as an unofficial loan from this year's budget. If the chareidi MKs did not manage to have the NIS 32 million approved out of last year's budget, the yeshivas would have to "repay" the money with a cut in the current budget. If you are beginning to grasp the Finance Ministry's techniques, then you probably already realize that such a cut would not be automatically restored in the following year, but rather the reduced budget would most certainly become the basis for all allocations in subsequent years.

Approval of the NIS 32 million was held up for almost half a year by tricks and delays, and when it was finally approved, the Shinui MK most involved became a media hero by threatening to sue in court to stop the payment.

It is not just the people of Shinui, who are proud and vocal in their hatred for the Jewish religion, who are responsible for this (and the example we gave is just one among many). The current Likud leadership allows Shinui to carry on and to make many demands. Sharon and Netanyahu each deny that they are partners to the anti-religious policies and each points a finger at the other as being the culprit. We say: They are both right -- both are responsible.

One should not forget the NRP government partners. Some of their supporters said it was important for them to join Shinui to look out for religious interests. But since then we have only seen them acquiesce to one anti-religious move after another. It is not for us to determine how well they are guarding "National" interests. But we can say that "Religious" interests have not been served well.

The chareidi MKs are certainly deserving of our support and encouragement to continue their protests until the government comes to its Jewish senses.

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